Q: What is it costing Kern County government, which is in the middle of a financial crisis, to celebrate its 150th anniversary? From where is the money coming?
We posed that question to county officials ourselves.
A: About $55,000, give or take.
Here’s how it breaks down:
The county is doing three big things to celebrate its 150-year anniversary: updating the county seal, hosting a commemorative meeting of the Kern County Board of Supervisors in the original county seat of Havilah (Tuesday), and (this past Saturday) hosting a celebration at the Kern County Museum.
To promote all this, the county has invested just more than $27,000 in advertising. That breaks down to $12,558 on radio, $5,877 on billboards and $8,817 on newspaper advertising.
Saturday’s event was the other big ticket item, costing roughly $28,000. Fireworks for the event were estimated to eat up $15,000 of that.
The rest went to provide Dumpsters, bathrooms, signage and other logistical things, county officials said. Gate fees from the event will go to the Kern County Museum as a fundraiser.
The new county seal isn’t costing much.
County officials ran a public input and design project as part of their regular duties.
The prize for the artist with the winning design? Bragging rights.
But what will be the cost to swap out all the old seals on county cars, trucks, letterhead and business cards?
County spokesman Steve Gabbitas and Assistant County Administrative Officer Teresa Hitchcock said all the old seals will remain in place until the old letterhead is used up and the vehicle fleet is replaced.
“There is no budget for the new seal,” Gabbitas said.
As for the special Board of Supervisors meeting in Havilah, the county isn’t counting on much cost other than $700 to rent a big tent for the meeting and the price of the gas needed to fuel the Kern Transit buses — county owned — that will shuttle attendees from Lake Isabella to Havilah.
Since Kern County staff who will be attending the meeting would be working a Board of Supervisors meeting anyway, Hitchcock said, the salary and benefit costs tied to their time are not counted as expenses.
A $10-a-head lunch will be provided by the Kern County Fire Department. Around half of that $10 will pay for the cost of the meal and the other half will go to the Havilah Historical Society. Tables and chairs for the meeting and lunch are owned by the fire department, which uses them in command center mess halls on major wildfires, so that cost is neutral too, she said.
Organizers estimate the total cost of the meeting will be around $2,000.
So where is all the money to do this coming from?
Hitchcock said none of the money will come out of the Kern County General Fund, the county’s critical discretionary reserve that has been hit hard by two years of dropping oil and gas industry property tax revenues.
The first $8,000 in funds tapped by the county for the 150th anniversary will be the left over money from the county’s 100th anniversary celebration in 1966.
County officials worked hard, Gabbitas and Hitchcock said, to sell sponsorships and booth space at Saturday’s Kern County Museum event. The event is being staffed by volunteers. And organizers relied on cities and communities from around Kern County to supply many of the attractions guests will enjoy — money the county won’t have to spend.
Officials also cancelled the September 2015 and September 2016 travel showcase events usually put on by the Kern County Board of Trade and flowed that money into the 150th year birthday celebration.
Any costs left over after all that work will be drawn from a special Board of Trade marketing fund that has been built up over the years and is dedicated to promoting Kern County, they said.
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